Creativity, Inspiration, and Entrepreneurship: How Kiberan Residents Are Tackling Job Scarcity
Although formal, full time, employment in Kibera is rare, men, women, and children supplement their income by setting up roadside shops and cleaning houses. While unemployment is on the rise all over Kenya, and has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 Pandemic, Eunice Akoth, a student at Miss Porter’s School and an integral part of the community in Kibera, explained the realities of searching for work as a resident of Kibera. Eunice states that gaining employment outside of the slum is especially difficult for residents of Kibera because of the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding the slum. With few opportunities for Kibera residents to enter the workforce outside of the slum, many face unemployment and are unable to support their families. As of 2021, 50% of Kibera’s eligible workforce is currently unemployed, and, furthermore, those that do get hired can expect to make less than 1 USD per day. Relatedly, only 40% of children attend school on any given day. Unemployment puts the youth at high risk of prostitution and drug use. With adults having to take care of children that are out of school and a need to financially support one's family, Kiberan residents have created innovative financial solutions, such as setting up small storefronts or creating a service based business. For example, it is very common for women and young girls to clean people’s houses in wealthy, surrounding areas when they are unable to find full time employment. Although these women are getting work, the pay is still far too small to support a family; according to Eunice, the average pay for such work is around 50 cents.
In times of struggle where there is little access to formal employment, the creativity of Kibera’s residents shines through. The slum is dotted with small shops called dukani, where you can find biscuits, scratchcards, and clothes for sale. The atmosphere is vibrant, and all around women are serving delicacies like chapati, which go for about 5 shillings a piece, and smoked and salted fish. Cumulatively, the hair salons, music stores, repair shops, eateries, car washes, and ‘pharmacies’ are comparable to a Target, in Eunice’s words. These small businesses not only help support the residents and their families financially, but also foster a sense of community and belonging, as well as allow Kiberans to celebrate their culture. Seeing their parents and other Kiberan adults turn a lack of work into an opportunity to create one's one business, there is a strong desire among the youth to prove themselves. Some youth have even begun to start tailoring companies or other entrepreneurship endeavors. By seeing the successes of Kiberans living within the slum, all residents, no matter the age or gender are inspired to take control of their futures and use their strengths to create a better community for themselves and those in the future.